For at least ten years, Scotland has been championing a community empowerment agenda with the Community Empowerment Act (2015), the Land Reform Act (2016), and the emerging Local Democracy Bill.
The increasing creativity demonstrated by communities all across Scotland in embracing this agenda is evidenced by their actions.
These include the acquisition and refurbishment of harbours, the purchase and operation of local shops, pubs and post offices, the creation of community energy companies, the building of local schools and even the takeover and management of a ferry service and a caravan park.
Most communities are using the opportunity to address local economic and social issues. However, they often struggle to secure the necessary finance from mainstream lenders or funders to undertake their actions.
The result is the emergence of imaginative and innovative mechanisms such as community bonds or community shares, that give people living and working in communities the opportunity to pool their financial resources in order to overcome these financial hurdles and capitalise on this agenda. In return these citizen investors receive a small financial return and a social return.
The money invested by each person is then gathered together and used to provide affordable loans to existing businesses, purchase of local buildings, or taking over local businesses and services or whatever is needed to ensure the community remains vibrant and sustainable.
One example is the community bond offer for the Linlith-Go-Solar rugby club project. Linlithgow has more than 1299 hours of sunshine per year – higher than the Scottish average. In order to realise community benefits from this natural asset, Linlithgow Community Development Trust(LCDT), is working with the local rugby club to cover its roof with solar panels.
Not only is this more environmentally friendly, but it will reduce the club’s energy costs. LCDT will make any surplus available to other Linlithgow clubs and societies.
In order to finance this development, LCDT is working with Scottish Communities Finance Ltd to encourage local people and businesses to invest in the Linlith-Go-Solar community bond offer.
To make sure that everyone in the community can be an investor, investment can start from as little as £50. An application form for the Linlith-Go-Solar community bond offer, along with other information is available at www.scotcomfinance.scot/2018/10/11/linlith-go-solar/ However, the offer closes on 16 December.
This is just the beginning – the long-term goal of LCDT is to put solar panels on many other buildings, turning Linlithgow into a community that generates all its own electricity from renewables as well as increasing funds for the local community.
Speaking of the Linlith-Go-Solar bond offer, LCDT trustee Neil Barnes said: “Linlithgow CDT is delighted to pilot this innovative approach to local community energy generation. Investment priority is given to local investors who wish to invest in community bonds and if successful we will scale it up and offer investment opportunities to support our endeavours”
Pauline Hinchion from SCF Ltd said: “Purchasing community bonds is about making an investment in your local community. Investing a small sum of money shows you support and care for your community.”
Pauline Hinchion, Scottish Communities Finance Ltd.